Sunday, October 28, 2007

No. 6 - M*A*S*H

Robert Altman had kicked around Hollywood for two decades, directing low budget films and episodic television before he made M*A*S*H in 1970. Out of nowhere, the 45-year-old veteran became one of the top directors in American cinema. The high grosses of M*A*S*H allowed Altman to make a series of daring, cutting-edge films for the rest of the decade.

M*A*S*H broke ground in a lot of areas. The sound design was innovative, in which multiple, overlapping conversations created a more authentic atmosphere. The film also evinced a counter-cultural disdain for such notions as patriotism and official military procedure. There was also the stunning juxtaposition of bloody operating room sequences with broad comedy.

What I like about this film is its lack of overt sentimentality, and yet it delivers the emotional goods at the end. There are no speeches about friendship or about the madness of war. The surgeons at the M*A*S*H unit just go about their duties, and drink and carouse in their rare off-time simply to keep their sanity in an insane situation. There is one brief shot near the end, in which we flash-forward to an officer's homecoming at an airport landing strip. It goes by in an instant, but it shows what every soldier dreams about. Amidst the comedy and carnage, it is one of those great moments that puts a lump in your throat -- and shows that Altman is more than just a farceur or a political provocateur.

1 comment:

PackardFilm Ltd said...

an absolute masterpiece without a doubt!
And let us not forget the great forgotten film Altman made just before this "That Cold Day in the Park"